Brian Altman: The scuba diving prosecutor who “speared” Milly Dowler’s killer


Brian Altman – new lead counsel for the independent child sexual abuse inquiry. Pic credit: 2 Bedford Chambers


The announcement this week that former Treasury counsel Brian Altman has been appointed lead counsel  from March to the much troubled Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse should be  good news for survivors.

The man has a formidable reputation as a forensic prosecutor and a particularly strong line in bringing criminals to justice in  ” cold case ” murders.  For once the phrase ” highly experienced”  used by the inquiry chair, Alexis Jay, is no exaggeration.

He has yet to get a cameo role as a lawyer  in ” Silent Witness” – though he did appear in a BBC 4 Real Crime and Punishment series ( sadly no longer available on BBC i-Player.).He has received much praise from journalists who regularly cover Old Bailey trials for the way he ensnares defendants who hope to escape justice for unspeakable crimes.

His case list of successful prosecutions is impressive. They include the notorious serial killer and rapist Levi Bellfield who murdered  teenager Milly Dowler and  killer Colin Ash-Smith convicted 21 years after he murdered 19 year old Claire Tiltman.

He has also prosecuted in a joint British and Dutch investigation  of canal murderer John Sweeney who killed and dismembered former American model and photographer, Melissa Halstead, in Holland in 1990, and disposed of her remains in a Rotterdam canal, and Paula Fields in London in 2000, whose dismembered body parts were found in the Regent’s Canal in 2001.

He has a string of other murder cases – where he both defended and prosecuted killers – and successfully prosecuted terrorists-including  those involved in a disrupted Islamic state terror plot and Syrian trained terrorists planning attacks in the UK.

He is familiar with the workings of the security services  and bad behaviour by MPs – he once advised on whether to prosecute one for expenses fraud – and his client list include members of a Middle  East Royal Family – though not disclosing whether it is the Saudi Arabian one or not. For a full list see his entry on his  chambers website here.

All this should bode well  for those who want forensic examinations of some of the most highly contentious cases that will be looked at by the child sexual abuse inquiry. This will in time include the Westminster paedophile ring, Greville Janner and the Leicestershire institutions involved in child sexual abuse and some of the more contentious child sex abuse scandals in London.

Historic child sexual abuse is also a ” cold case ”  issue – so this quote should comfort the sceptics.

“For cold case murders, he is the go-to barrister because he is able to draw together all the small pieces to provide a coherent analysis, and he knows these cases so well that there is nothing the defence can come up with to outfox him. He is completely relentless, extremely personable and a great team player”; “He is a master of detail who never makes a mistake.” Chambers & Partners 2016 (Crime)

Frankly  the inquiry after all the row surrounding the departure of his predecessor, Ben Emmerson, could do with a boost. Given there is also outside pressure – thankfully resisted by Theresa May who set it up – to try and get the government to close the inquiry down because of its scope and cost, this is doubly important.

Brian Altman in his Linked In profile also lists two hobbies – scuba diving and travel. I can well understand  he will sometimes want to get away from it all after all this work pressure.

He is  coy about where he has travelled and where he has scuba dived. He tells me one of the places he has not yet visited is Australia’s Great Barrier Reef – the largest scuba diving place in the world.

Given he is probably lead counsel for the largest child sex abuse inquiry in the world- perhaps he also should also get some time off to relax there as well soon.





Justice Saunders Sentencing Remarks at the Hacking Trial

What the judge said about Coulson and the other defendants in full.Andy Coulson got 18 months in jail.

The Criminal Media Nexus

R –v- Coulson and others.

Sentencing Remarks

Parliament has decided that it is a criminal offence to access the voicemails of other people without their consent or an order of the court. Parliament has decided that the offence applies to members of the press in the same way as it does to all other citizens. This law provides the same protection to all citizens including those who, for one reason or another, are in the public eye. Parliament set the maximum sentence for the offence of intercepting communications at 2 years imprisonment and Parliament has decided that the same maximum sentence applies to an offence of conspiracy which can cover, as it does in this case, a very large number of individual offences.

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Phone Hacking Trial: Summing up, Recruitment Agency boss remembered call by Stuart Kuttner about Milly Dowler message – Martin Hickman

Judge emphasises significance of the Milly Dowler hacking by News of the World

Inforrm's Blog

???????????????????????Day 116: The judge today reminded the jury that the boss of a recruitment agent who left a hacked message on Milly Dowler’s phone firmly remembered being called about it by the paper’s managing editor, Stuart Kuttner.

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Phone Hacking Trial: Summing up, Mulcaire may have hacked three celebrities during Brooks’ NoTW editorship – Martin Hickman

Judge’s summing up ; Mulcaire’s suspected 12 victims named. Milly Dowler hacking central to case against Rebekah Brooks , Andy Coulson.and Stuart Kuttner.

Inforrm's Blog

Old-Bailey1080Day 115, Part 2:  Glenn Mulcaire may have hacked the phones of three female celebrities during Rebekah Brooks’ editorship of the News of the World, the Old Bailey heard.

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Phone Hacking Trial: Stuart Kuttner an “old school” journalist whose only fault was trusting others, jury told – Martin Hickman

A big defence of Stuart Kuttner by his lawyer Jonathan Caplan who believes he shouldn’t have been prosecuted. Probably his most interesting statement is this : He suggested that the Crown Prosecution Service should have had more important targets to go after. Stressing public money was tight, Mr Caplan said: “The impression in this case has been that no resource has been spared by the Crown Prosecution Service or the police in investigating this case – and propelling it here as a high-profile prosecution.”

Referring to the glass wall of the dock, he added: “In these courts, they’re mostly used to dealing with murder or terrorism or other cases of that kind.”

Inforrm's Blog

KuttnerDay 112:  Stuart Kuttner, the News of the World’s managing editor, is an “old school” journalist whose only fault was that he trusted the paper’s staff, his lawyer told the phone hacking trial today.

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Phone Hacking Trial: Coulson received £600,000 pay-off, but remembers little of Dowler story – Martin Hickman

Wow !Andy Coulson gets so much money he can’t even remember his salary at the News of the World but he did walk out with £600,000 before working for David Cameron. Wonder whether his memory of life in Downing Street will be as lucid as his time editing Murdoch’s paper. He certainly won’t be writing a diary like Alastair Campbell!

Inforrm's Blog

Andy CoulsonDay 96: Andy Coulson left the News of the World with a £600,000 pay-off, but with little memory of what turned out to be one of its most important stories: the disappearance of Milly Dowler, the phone hacking trial heard today.

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Phone Hacking Trial: Coulson, no knowledge that NOTW detective accessed Milly Dowler’s voicemail – Martin Hickman

So Andy Coulson acting editor of the News of the World had NO knowledge that Glenn Mulcaire had hacked Milly Dowler’s voicemail. No comment!

Inforrm's Blog

Andy CoulsonDay 91, Part 1: Andy Coulson had no knowledge that the News of the World’s private detective had accessed Milly Dowler’s voicemail, he told the phone hacking trial today.

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Phone Hacking Trial: News of the World exec was “gentleman,” says Sara Payne – Martin Hickman

Sarah Payne’s mum testifies for ” sweet natured” Rebekah Brooks and ” gentleman” Stuart Kuttner.
Fact: Her details were discovered by Operation Weeting on hacker Glenn Mulcaire’s files.

Inforrm's Blog

Sara-PayneDay 89, Part 2:  The mother of murdered eight-year-old Sarah Payne today paid tribute to two defendants at the phone hacking trial.

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Phone Hacking Trial: Charlie Brooks: Rebekah lived in “paranoia” of police dawn raid – Martin Hickman

It is amazing that according to hubbie Charlie Rebekah Brooks main fear was the ” killer photograph ” – of her being taken away in handcuffs and making the front page of a tabloid. This is the sort of thing dished out by the tabloids themselves – so must believe they are very potent.

Inforrm's Blog

Rebekah and Charlie Brooks Day 79: Rebekah Brooks lived in “paranoia” that she was about to be dawn raided by police and that a picture of her in handcuffs would end up in the papers, her husband Charlie told the phone hacking trial today.

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Phone Hacking Trial: Brooks interested in Milly case, but denies knowledge of hacking – Martin Hickman

Very interesting. Rebekah Brooks now admits her extreme interest in Milly Dowler’s disappearance but says nobody tells her of the police’s disclosure to News International that Milly Dowler’s phone had been hacked by journalists at the News of the World

Inforrm's Blog

Dowler and NoWDay 66:   Rebekah Brooks agreed today she was “ extremely interested ” in Milly Dowler’s disappearance – but denied she knew the News of the World had hacked her phone.

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